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Essay Questions On Scholarship Applications

Believe it or not, scholarship committees generally ask the same types of questions and have similar applications.

That’s right! The scholarships you find are going to fit into specific themes which you must be able to identify in order to save your family time, frustration, stress, and most importantly – money.

The 16 themes below are designed for you to use as a reference until you can spot them on your own. Also, make sure you check out our Scholarship Fast Track videos, specifically the Application Accelerators Module, that outlines these scholarship essay themes and questions even more!

The Top 16 Scholarship Essay Themes

  • Career
  • Catch-All
  • Challenges
  • Champion
  • Change
  • Character
  • Classroom
  • College
  • Committee Composition
  • Community
  • Competition
  • Contribution
  • Control
  • Creative
  • Credentials
  • Culture

I’ve provided a definition as well as common scholarship question examples for each theme.

Real Talk:These questions are not made-up and, in fact, come from actual scholarship applications that are open to students at all levels. I hope that they serve you well in preparing for your upcoming applications.

Common Scholarship Questions and Essay Prompts

Scholarship Essay Theme: Career

The career theme is pretty self-explanatory. The committee wants to know any and everything relating to you or your student’s career goals.

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • What do you want to do after you graduate from college?
  • Why did you select this career?
  • How will you change the field/industry?
  • Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Scholarship Essay Theme: Catch-All

This is a student’s life summary or autobiography which usually includes information about the past, present, and future. Some committees refer to it as a personal statement or brief bio. (Warning: Not all personal statements will be looking for a life summary. Make sure you read the application carefully.)

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • Please write a short autobiography including information about your family, work experience, community involvement, hobbies, spare time activities, and what you hope to do in the future.
  • Please include a short summary or personal statement describing your accomplishments and goals.
  • List any honors and awards you’ve received.
  • List your extra-curricular activities.

Scholarship Essay Theme: Challenges

Everyone loves a good underdog story. An essay theme that focuses on Challenges asks the student to identify a time when they were down or faced conflict. The committee wants to hear how instead of giving up, you rose to the occasion or at least learned what was necessary to achieve success.

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • Write a short essay that describes areas in your life where you demonstrated leadership and overcame obstacles either through your school, social, or family life.
  • What’s the most difficult challenge you’ve ever faced? How did you handle it?

Scholarship Essay Theme: Champion

Why you? Out of all the available applicants, why should you or your student earn the scholarship?

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • Why do you need this scholarship?
  • Please list any additional comments you believe would be helpful in the committee’s decision.
  • In 100 words or less, tell why you would like to receive the XYZ scholarship.

Scholarship Essay Theme: Change

This is one I’m starting to see more and more of in the scholarship world. Committees are interested in the opinions, thoughts, and ideas of applicants. With topics like legislation, population control, and the environment, committees want to see analytical and critical thinking skills.

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • What do you think we should do about gun control in this country?
  • How would you handle texting and driving?
  • Create an innovative solution to reduce waste.

Scholarship Essay Theme: Character

As Defined by Merriam-Webster, “Character is the way someone thinks, feels, and behaves.” Essentially, it’s what makes you who you are.

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • Describe a time in your life that has shaped who you are as a person.
  • This is what I believe in…
  • How do you define success?
  • What traits do you possess that will enhance your education or future career?

Scholarship Essay Theme: Classroom

Academics, teaching methods, assignments, and anything that pertains to student learning fall under this category.

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • How has technology impacted student learning?
  • If you could design a college curriculum, what would it be?
  • Do you believe that standardized testing has helped or hindered student learning?

Scholarship Essay Theme: College

This is one of the most common scholarship essay themes. The premise: Why do you want to go to college?

You’ll often see this theme attached to others as an additional question or a required component of the application.

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • Why do you want to go to college?
  • What do you expect to gain from earning a college degree?
  • What are your educational goals?

Is this helping you? Are you beginning to see how this can save you a lot of time? If so, let me know in the comments below, Tweet Me @ScholarshipTalk, or just share the following message and I’ll know you see the benefits of organizing your scholarships based on themes. 🤓


Scholarship Essay Theme: Committee Composition

I’m sure you’ve seen some of the eccentric scholarships out there that challenge you to write about your favorite ice cream, talk about using their product, or design a logo for their company. These scholarships tend to be unique or inspired by the sponsoring organization.

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • Create a greeting card and be featured in our upcoming holiday card collection.
  • Design a mascot for our company.
  • Write an essay about how lights and fixtures could impact your mood.
  • Develop an innovative video to end smoking.

Scholarship Essay Theme: Community

This is also a popular scholarship theme. Instead of looking at a student’s GPA, test scores, or major, the community essay theme focuses on community service, community initiatives, and community improvement.

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • Describe a meaningful volunteer experience?
  • Make thank-you cards for military service members.
  • Share a project you developed to change your community.

Scholarship Essay Theme: Competition

A common theme for athletes, band members, dancers, or those involved in groups/organizations is the Competition scholarship essay. It highlights participation and its associated benefits.

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • What does it mean to be a good student on the field, in the classroom, and in the community?
  • Define what it means to be a good teammate?
  • Describe a moment of sportsmanship.

Scholarship Essay Theme: Contribution

Again, this is another scholarship essay theme that you may see added to another scholarship question or application. The committee wants to know about you or your student’s contribution to society at various levels.

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • How will you make a difference in our world?
  • How have you made a difference in your community?
  • What do you think our country should do to foster unity?

Scholarship Essay Theme: Control

Control, i.e. leadership, oftentimes stands alone as a scholarship theme because of the many questions that can be asked. From being a leader to follower and everything in between, the committee is seeking answers regarding group interaction, the organization of people, or participation within a group setting.

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • What does leadership mean to you?
  • Explain a family, social or school situation, in which your leadership made the difference. What was accomplished?

Scholarship Essay Theme: Creative

I’m starting to see a rise in Creative scholarship essays as well. You may notice some similarities with the Committee Composition theme because these scholarships are usually committee-driven and created.

The committee will provide a question, but give you freedom in depicting or representing the theme or category they’ve selected.

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • Write a short story of 2,000 words or less.
  • Create a video of 2-minutes or less to encourage young people to stop texting and driving.
  • Submit a photograph depicting the word “family”.

Scholarship Essay Theme: Credentials

As defined by Merriam-Webster, “Credentials are a qualification, achievement, personal quality, or aspect of a person’s background, typically when used to indicate that they are suitable for something.”

These scholarships will require specific credentials to apply or may use the credential within application questions.

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • To apply for this scholarship, you must be a female student majoring in a male-dominated industry. Please tell us why you selected this career?
  • Applicants must be a member of the LGBTQI community. Describe a volunteering activity you conducted for your community.
  • Students must be a dependent of an active military member or veteran. Why do you need this scholarship?
  • Students applying for this scholarship must be undergraduate students entering their first semester. What study habits do you think are imperative to freshmen student success?

Scholarship Essay Theme: Culture

Cultures can be comprised of many different components. From college communities to hometown traditions, the Culture theme is based on the defining characteristics of a student’s environment.

Common Scholarship Questions:

  • Tell the committee why you decided to attend college out-of-state?
  • What does your university’s tradition and pride represent?
  • Submit a piece of artwork that captures your town.

Save a Ton of Time by Using These Themes

Scholarship applications may have one or several themes present. Focus on identifying your possible scholarship themes.

Labeling scholarships by themes and working on them at the same time allows the student to divide and conquer. If your family can get good at identifying themes, you’ll immediately save hours of time on applications.

As I start to see new themes emerge, I’ll be sure to add them to the list. For now, this should keep you pretty busy as you continue to find and apply for scholarships.

Feature Image Artwork Credit: iStockPhoto/tostphoto

The essay: It’s the most important part of your scholarship application, and it can be the hardest.

But, the essay shouldn’t keep you from applying. Take a look at some commonly asked essay questions and use them to prepare for your scholarship applications. Brainstorm ideas, do some research or create your own “stock” of scholarship essays.

Your Field of Specialization and Academic Plans

Some scholarship applications will ask you to write about your major or field of study.

These questions are used to determine how well you know your area of specialization and why you’re interested in it.

Samples:

• How will your study of _______ contribute to your immediate or long range career plans?
• Why do you want to be a _______?
• Explain the importance of (your major) in today’s society.
• What do you think the industry of _______ will be like in the next 10 years?
• What are the most important issues your field is facing today?

Current Events and Social Issues

To test your skills at problem-solving and check how up to date you are on current issues, many scholarship applications include questions about problems and issues facing society.

Samples:

• What do you consider to be the single most important societal problem? Why?
• If you had the authority to change your school in a positive way, what specific changes would you make?
• Pick a controversial problem on college campuses and suggest a solution.
• What do you see as the greatest threat to the environment today?

Personal Achievements

Scholarships exist to reward and encourage achievement. So you shouldn’t be surprised to find essay topics that ask you to brag a little.

Samples:

• Describe how you have demonstrated leadership ability both in and out of school.
• Discuss a special attribute or accomplishment that sets you apart.
• Describe your most meaningful achievements and how they relate to your field of study and your future goals.
• Why are you a good candidate to receive this award?

Background and Influences

Who you are is closely tied to where you’ve been and who you’ve known. To learn more about you, some scholarship committees will ask you to write about your background and major influences.

Samples:

• Pick an experience from your own life and explain how it has influenced your development.
• Who in your life has been your biggest influence and why?
• How has your family background affected the way you see the world?
• How has your education contributed to who you are today?

Future Plans and Goals

Scholarship sponsors look for applicants with vision and motivation, so they might ask about your goals and aspirations.

Samples:

• Briefly describe your long- and short-term goals.
• Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
• Why do you want to get a college education?

Financial Need

Many scholarship providers have a charitable goal: They want to provide money for students who are going to have trouble paying for college. In addition to asking for information about your financial situation, these committees may want a more detailed and personal account of your financial need.

Samples:

• From a financial standpoint, what impact would this scholarship have on your education?
• State any special personal or family circumstances affecting your need for financial assistance.
• How have you been financing your college education?

Random Topics

Some essay questions don’t seem directly related to your education, but committees use them to test your creativity and get a more well-rounded sense of your personality.

Samples:

• Choose a person or persons you admire and explain why.
• Choose a book or books and that have affected you deeply and explain why.

While you can’t predict every essay question, knowing some of the most common ones can give you a leg up on applications. Start brainstorming now, and you may find yourself a winner!

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